From small-town Vermont to Taylor Swift and “Barbie,” two brothers stay busy with creative careers

Photos of two men working backstage at outdoor concerts
Joe Fiorillo, left, and Anthony Fiorillo, brothers from Randolph, each at work. Photos courtesy of Joe and Anthony Fiorillo

Rebecca Olshan is a reporter at Community News Service, part of the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program. She wrote this story for the White River Valley Herald.

Student theater technicians dressed in black skitter backstage at Randolph Union High School, where their spring show is about to begin. Anthony Fiorillo moves confidently behind the scenes. He has completely thought out the lighting and sound for the musical, and he knows it. After all, he’s been working on shows since he was 11.

Just down the road at Chandler Music Hall, the Green Mountain Youth Symphony warms up the string section, swelling the sound in the room. Joe Fiorillo, Anthony’s younger brother, wields his cello and is ready to do what he loves: making music. After all, he’s been hooked ever since he saw Yo-Yo Ma perform in a rerun of “Mister Rogers.”

That evening – in 2009 – encapsulates the brothers’ parallel paths through the creative world. Anthony, now 33, would pursue a career as a lighting technician. Joe, now 31, would dabble in sound mixing. And their busy, arts-filled upbringing took them from auditoriums in Randolph to arenas and stages around the world, working with famous singers and on famous sets. Take two of the biggest pop culture spectacles of the past year: Anthony was part of Taylor Swift’s ‘Eras ​​Tour,’ and Joe worked on set with Ryan Gosling for the ‘I’m Just Ken (Merry Kristmas Barbie)’ music video, which in early April had been viewed 5 million times on YouTube.

“Growing up in a small town or a place like Vermont, it’s easy to feel miserable. But when you look back on things when you’re an adult and have more context, it really is an idyllic childhood in many ways,” Joe said. “To be surrounded by art and people who really support the art is really unique, and I don’t think that’s something that every place has.”

Both brothers, separated by just one grade in their youth, attended Emerson College in Boston, a school known for its history with the performing arts. Anthony studied theater design and technology, while Joe studied sound design and audio post-production.

“When I found out I could get paid to do (theater design) instead of working in a restaurant or something, it was a really sweet feeling,” Anthony said.

Joe came to a similar realization: “I had stupid jobs in college. I valeted for a while and also worked in our equipment center in the rental department,” he said. “I quit those jobs my freshman year and was able to pay the rent and bills with just sound mixing work.”

He did this by taking advantage of the college equipment to hire himself and do a lot of “extreme Boston” commercial work at companies like Dunkin’ and the Patriots.

Anthony left for New York City after graduation, and a year later Joe flew west to Los Angeles.

“I did a few children’s theater tours when I was younger, but the first concert tour I did was in 2017,” Anthony said. “It’s been pretty consistent with concert tours since then, other than that little gap in everyone’s resume between 2020 and 2021.”

He started with series like “Dinosaur Train: The Traveling Exhibit” and “Sesame Street Live,” both based on PBS TV shows, and soon moved on to blockbuster events including John Mayer’s “Sob Rock Tour,” the “After Hours Tour’ by Weeknd and the ultimate jackpot – ‘Eras’, Swift’s ongoing phenomenon.

Anthony has been working on that tour since last January. He doesn’t have a good relationship with the pop superstar: “I met her indirectly – she’s always around and very friendly – but it’s kind of taboo for us to say hello.” But the benefits of working for the highest-grossing concert of all time more than make up for it. Anthony has traveled to countries as different as Brazil, Singapore and Latvia as the tour progresses through its approximately 150 scheduled shows.

Joe has also traveled the world through his freelance gigs. His sound work in Red Bull TV’s “Red Bull Drop in Tour” series took him to Australia, Japan and Europe to film local skateboarders. A job for Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible took him to what he described as “hidden corners of America, these kind of forgotten parts of the country.” He helped record dialogue for Billie Eilish’s Apple Music documentary, “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” in 2021.

This was of course followed by the video recording “I’m Just Ken”, in which Gosling and collaborator Mark Ronson performed surrounded by Christmas lights. You can find Joe as the credits roll on the clip.

To supplement his freelance work, Joe recently joined a group of college friends to produce feature films under the name Omnes Films. The collective has two releases this year: “Eephus” and “Christmas Eve at Millers Point.”

The brothers don’t often work together and live on opposite sides of the country, but their worlds are still intertwined. “I think we’re a lot closer now because we just got into similar fields. There are, strangely enough, many parallels in our lives. It’s a very small, big world,” Joe said.

While Joe was working on Billie Eilish’s documentary, other crew members asked him if he was Anthony’s brother, he said. Cameramen on Swift’s tour told Anthony that they are friends with Joe.

“I got you that one job too, so you’re welcome,” Anthony reminded his brother when the two recently sat down for a job interview.

The Fiorillo brothers are very grateful to have grown up in Vermont. They agree that the state is a place where small towns and eclectic personalities foster something they can identify with anywhere.

“It’s nice to find the few Vermonters in the world, because there aren’t that many,” Anthony said. “One of the first companies I worked with in New York hired a lot of people from Vermont, and it was always very funny. We joked about how we all got into this together.”

The brothers are both busy traveling from country to country, from job to job. They are quick to recognize people back home, opportunities in Vermont like the Green Mountain Youth Symphony and the Chandler Music Hall High School Volunteer Program.

“It’s hard to make money with any passion, but it’s very rewarding,” says Joe. “It just makes for a happy life, you know?”